The BHG Singapore x Avagram campaign broke all the rules, transforming the public’s perception of BHG and its offerings while successfully expanding BHG’s depth of appeal to a younger audience. A combination of digital media and partnering young local talent earned BHG's PR agency, WhiteLabel PR, a place as a finalist for best PR Campaign: Fashion & Apparel at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's PR Awards 2021.
BHG is a household name that has a 26-year history in Singapore. The company has traditionally been focused on quality home and living products in the heartlands, and its stores tend to be frequented by mature shoppers.
As part of its reinvention strategy in 2020, BHG Singapore decided to bring designer-quality products at affordable prices to customers, with young Singaporeans as a new target audience. However, BHG Singapore was considered an old-school department store for more mature shoppers at the time, rather than for the younger generation.
The WhiteLabel PR team, with the support of BHG Singapore, envisioned presenting a fresh, dynamic and rejuvenated BHG that would flip the company’s old image on its head. The team knew this could be achieved through an out-of-the-box PR campaign. Aside from using traditional media and influencer marketing, the challenge would be to create a talking point that captured the attention of young shoppers.
While on task to identify the "wow" factor with a lead time of a month and within a limited budget, the WhiteLabel PR team set the following campaign objectives:
1. Raise awareness of BHG Singapore’s efforts of recognising and supporting local talents with newly-launched fashion labels designed locally by their first in-house Singaporean designer.
2. Position BHG Singapore as leading the transformation of Singapore’s department stores and the overall retail scene with the innovative use of digital marketing and social media.
3. Create talkability and engagement on social media that would lead to awareness and a change in how the BHG Singapore brand is perceived.
The teams explored a guerrilla-like approach that would create hype and talkability, while at the same time appealing directly to the younger audience.
BHG Singapore and WhiteLabel PR worked together to identify what influenced youth and young adults when it came to their sartorial choices. They discovered that both groups relied heavily on online sources and social media for fashion inspiration, seeking out visual references from influencers’ Instagram feeds for style tips and the hottest fashion trends.
Riding on the back of the research, both teams decided that the best way forward would be to launch the new fashion labels with an online campaign, enabling them to reach their technologically savvy audience directly, and at the same time strengthen their digital presence through social media.
To scale the campaign even further, WhiteLabel PR proposed a partnership with Singapore’s first virtual influencer Ava Gram (Ava). Ava could "host" weekend takeovers on BHG Singapore’s Instagram account for a month, allowing her to reach out and engage with the youth and young adults via short and casual stories and posts on a social platform familiar to them. BHG Singapore and WhiteLabel PR wanted the public to be taken in by Ava’s personality and character and be inspired by her style and fashion through her outfits, which would be from BHG Singapore’s in-house fashion labels.
Having Ava front the campaign dovetailed well with BHG Singapore’s goal to work with young local talents as part of the company’s reinvention strategy. Ava was created by LASALLE College of the Arts graduate Reyme Husaini as a final-year project. By choosing to work with an upcoming young tech talent instead of going with someone more established, BHG Singapore sent a consistent message that it is committed to being a platform that creates opportunities for young talents in Singapore.
In preparation for the Instagram takeover, BHG Singapore and WhiteLabel PR worked closely together with Reyme to craft the key messaging and collateral for the campaign. Each social media post was curated to show off Ava and her versatile sense of style, with different looks created for different settings.
Scheduled to run over three weekends, Ava’s takeover posts showed her dressed and accessorised with outfits mixed and matched from the three labels. The fact that Ava is an ethnically ambiguous virtual influencer who could be whoever one makes her out to be allowed both teams great leeway to create different personas and looks to accentuate the versatility of the BHG Singapore labels, Societe, Otona Mode, and SBT.
From a day in the office, at school, on a dinner date out and about town, Ava could easily switch up her style to suit different occasions, showcasing how the different brands would suit different lifestyles.
To build up the hype around Ava’s September weekend takeovers on BHG Singapore’s Instagram, WhiteLabel PR sent out pitches announcing the collaboration to local fashion and lifestyle publications, sharing the anticipation and possibilities of what was to come from this brand-new form of collaboration, which is both proudly local and could impact the future of fashion PR and influencer marketing in Singapore.
As one of BHG Singapore’s goals was to change public perception of the company by positioning themselves as a changemaker in the retail industry, strengthening their share of voice by switching up the narrative of their outreach campaigns from the existing coverage of sales and marketing content to engaging topics proved to be a successful first step.
The novel collaboration between an established department store and locally-designed virtual influencer by a young and relatively unknown student proved to be the unlikely campaign that the industry has been waiting for, setting the tone for future optimisation of blending the digital world and retail space. This created buzz and great talkability both in the media as well as on social channels.
The campaign was met with positive response from both media as well as the general public, with media enquiries for broadcast coverage on mainstream media as well as features written in online publications. Local lifestyle publications were impressed by the campaign, as were business publications. The campaign also made waves overseas.
The campaign saw an additional $80,283.75 in local and regional PR coverage from the collaboration alone, separate from general BHG brand coverage.
While the campaign concluded in September 2020, BHG continues to benefit from its first-mover advantage. Months later, Singapore’s leading Mandarin TV channel focused on the trend and named BHG Singapore as an early adopter for virtual influencer partnerships.
On the social media front, BHG Singapore saw an uptick in the brand’s social media engagement, where it averaged about 2.61%. Followers on Instagram gave their seal of approval on the campaign via DMs and shares.